Wednesday, June 20, 2018
Stage

Kristin Chenoweth to bring big voice, life story to Ruth Eckerd Hall

CLEARWATER — When Kristin Chenoweth steps onto the Ruth Eckerd Hall stage Friday, she will feel at home.

Not home in New York, curled up in flannel pajamas with her Maltese watching true crime shows. Home for Chenoweth is center stage, surrounded by light in an otherwise shadowy place.

She's not crazy about flying, being jostled in cramped aisles or sharing space in involuntary ways. For her, the best part of travel is unpacking, then bringing a lifetime of work to a new audience.

"It's my happy place," Chenoweth said in a phone interview. "From 8 to 10 p.m. at night, I can sing the material I love so much." Expect her to mix it up, throwing in some Dolly Parton between Andrew Lloyd Webber or Stephen Schwartz, or torch songs like My Funny Valentine.

You might have seen Chenoweth, 47, on Broadway as Glinda in Wicked or as the unpredictable April Rhodes on Fox's Glee (for which she earned an Emmy nomination) or in any of more than two dozen films, including The Boy Next Door last year with Jennifer Lopez. She is known for her operatic chops, that big voice in that tiny body, but also for her versatility. Her career stands out among Broadway stars for her successful crossover to movies, recording and television.

Her story before Broadway is just as remarkable. Teachers discovered the Broken Arrow, Okla., native early. She won the talent portion of the Miss Oklahoma pageant and used the proceeds to help pay for a master's degree in opera performance from Oklahoma State University. In the mid 1990s she went to New York, auditioned for an off-Broadway part and got it.

A role as Sally Brown in You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown won her a Tony, but her career was just beginning. She now lives with a 12-year-old Maltese, Madeline Kahn Chenoweth (named after one of her favorite singers), a lazy-eyed rescue dog.

In a reality show culture, if there is one thing Chenoweth would like young fans to know, it's that success takes more than talent.

"I tell young people all the time, if you want to be famous, don't worry about going to college," Chenoweth said. "Go for it while you're young. If you get a reality show or something like that, save your money. If you want to be a singer or an artist, you immerse yourself in becoming better every single day."

Singers like Carrie Underwood and Kelly Clarkson are the rarest of the rare, she said, and even so only make it because they keep working at it.

"The Taylor Swifts of the world, people can be jealous, but I'm sorry, she works her butt off," Chenoweth said.

Chenoweth crossed an item off her bucket list in singing with Placido Domingo, one of her "favorite singers of all time."

"He chooses to live his life with joy," she said of Domingo. "Basically, overall, I am a happy person. I live with joy and so does he."

Choosing joy sometimes comes with a price. A self-described "liberal Christian," Chenoweth's open support of LGBT rights drew the censure from many of Pat Robertson's 700 Club followers, an ordeal she recounted in A Little Bit Wicked, her autobiography. She considers herself a "political swinger," not bound by Republican or Democratic loyalties, only whether candidates pass the "Jesus smell test."

"I am watching the debates," she said, "and paying more attention than I ever have in my life."

Asked what song she might dedicate to this country now, Chenoweth paused.

"I would have to say Smile," she said. "If you read the words, we have a lot of heartbreak in this country and a lot of sadness in this world, and in Paris. I think, however, that we are a country filled with hope."

Contact Andrew Meacham at [email protected] or (727) 892-2248. Follow @torch437.

Comments
On stage this week: Freefall Theatre’s ‘The Musical of Musicals,’ Jay Pharoah

On stage this week: Freefall Theatre’s ‘The Musical of Musicals,’ Jay Pharoah

SENDUP: MUSICAL OF MUSICALSFive composers, a talented cast, choreography by Cheryl Lee and music directed by Michael Raabe — that’s Freefall Theatre’s recipe for a laugh-filled, season-ending summer musical, appropriately titled The Musical of Musica...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Jobsite’s ‘Dancing at Lughnasa’ should be more gripping than it is

Jobsite’s ‘Dancing at Lughnasa’ should be more gripping than it is

TAMPA — The virtues of Dancing at Lughnasa, with which Jobsite Theater closes its season, are many. This drama by the celebrated Brian Friel opened in 1990 to much acclaim. It captures a family’s joys and sadnesses, and the quickness with which one s...
Published: 06/19/18
Irish boxer brings his dream to St. Petersburg

Irish boxer brings his dream to St. Petersburg

ST. PETERSBURG — In his vision for this weekend, Connor Coyle is standing in the ring at the Coliseum, and the referee is raising his gloved fist.He’s got a National Boxing Association middleweight championship belt around his waist, the first of sev...
Published: 06/15/18
Irish boxer brings his dream to St. Petersburg

Irish boxer brings his dream to St. Petersburg

ST. PETERSBURG — In his vision for this weekend, Connor Coyle is standing in the ring at the Coliseum, and the referee is raising his gloved fist.He’s got a National Boxing Association middleweight championship belt around his waist, the first of sev...
Published: 06/14/18
Updated: 06/16/18
Why this ballet dancer is skipping college in favor of her own St. Petersburg Ballet Conservatory

Why this ballet dancer is skipping college in favor of her own St. Petersburg Ballet Conservatory

GULFPORT — Brianna Melton is as serious a ballet student as they come.By her junior year at St. Petersburg High’s International Baccalaureate program, she had already spent four summers training with ballet companies across the country and had narrow...
Published: 06/14/18
What’s on stage: The Illusionists, ‘Dancing at Lughnasa,’ G. David Howard

What’s on stage: The Illusionists, ‘Dancing at Lughnasa,’ G. David Howard

OPENING: DANCING AT LUGHNASAIrish playwright Brian Friel, who died in 2015 at 86, won’t be traveling anymore. But I’ll bet he packed a tidy suitcase. Dancing at Lughnasa, Jobsite Theater’s season closer, manages to address a lot of issues: race, reli...
Published: 06/13/18
Ruth Eckerd Hall tees up comedy, romance and Kristin Chenoweth for 2018-19 Broadway season

Ruth Eckerd Hall tees up comedy, romance and Kristin Chenoweth for 2018-19 Broadway season

Ruth Eckerd Hall rolls out a new lineup of musicals for its 2018-19 season, a mix of comedy, favorite musicals and romance."For the last 35 years, Broadway has always been a staple at Ruth Eckerd Hall," chief executive officer Zev Buffman said in a p...
Published: 06/12/18
A tense night at the Tony Awards ends in euphoria for Largo doctor Jeffrey Grove

A tense night at the Tony Awards ends in euphoria for Largo doctor Jeffrey Grove

Dr. Jeffrey Grove sat three-quarters of the way back from the stage at Radio City Music Hall, waiting for his moment. The Largo physician made the trip with family to New York for Sunday’s Tony Awards, where he hoped to see his investment in O...
Published: 06/11/18
Neal Boyd, ‘America’s Got Talent’ winner, dies at 42

Neal Boyd, ‘America’s Got Talent’ winner, dies at 42

SIKESTON, Mo. — Neal Boyd, an opera singer who won America’s Got Talent and dabbled in Missouri politics, has died. Scott County Coroner Scott Amick says Boyd died around 6 p.m. Sunday at his mother’s house in Sikeston. He was 42. Amick says Boyd had...
Published: 06/11/18
Parkland drama teens bring down the house with stirring performance at Tony Awards

Parkland drama teens bring down the house with stirring performance at Tony Awards

Members of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School’s drama team stole the show at the 72nd Annual Tony Awards Sunday night.The performance brought the crowd— many of whom were wiping tears from their eyes— to its collective feet at the Radio City Music ...
Published: 06/11/18